Creating Lasting Memories

by British Columbia
Categories: Blog, Stories

Creating Lasting Memories

’Tis the season for red iconic Salvation Army Christmas Kettles lining the streets of your community. Where you’ll get the chance to meet many of our staff and volunteers giving their time to ring some bells to help us raise vital funds for our programs and services. One of the volunteers you might meet in the Ridge Meadows community is Gerry, a 58-year-old grandfather who knows all too well just how important these programs can be for someone in need.

Originally from Ireland, Gerry’s family moved to Vancouver when he was just four years old. His father, a loyal Manchester United supporter, shared his love of the game with his son. As Gerry grew older, he ended up spending many hours on the soccer pitch where his natural talents blossomed. However, issues with alcohol and substance abuse would sideline him from ever reaching his true potential …

“I was at my bottom. I was ready to give up”

Growing up Gerry struggled with memory loss. These challenges made everything in life more difficult, from school to work to building new relationships with others. “People thought I didn’t care,” Gerry explained, but the reality was he just couldn’t remember what was previously told to him.

After dropping out of school he found enjoyment building things with his own hands and started work in construction through some of his teammates. “I couldn’t remember the blueprints of the job but was a good laborer,” he says, “I took pride in my work.”

Things were looking great for Gerry, he was working, was sober, and even became a father. However, after seven years together, his relationship fell through and after a difficult separation his ex-wife took custody of their children including his youngest son, who was just a toddler at the time.

“I didn’t know what to do I was alone, and I relapsed”

Three months later Gerry was living alone and hurting after discovering more about his ex’s actions that led to their divorce, “I didn’t know what to do … I was alone, and I relapsed,” he shared. This begin an on-and-off battle with substance abuse. His ex-wife started to limit visitations and time he could spend with his son.

Years later, even after going through recovery Gerry still deals with challenges that come from being a single father including working around the transition his son needs to go through every week changing from one home environment to another. “I want him to come here and have fun, I just want to give him all of my time,” Gerry explains.

After experiencing homelessness for the first time Gerry entered a treatment center in Maple Ridge and later discovered The Salvation Army where he was able to find a support system that helped him. “Everyone treats others with respect and kindness,” Gerry explains about his time at the Ridge Meadows Ministries, “I don’t know how they do what they do every day with smiles on their faces.”

Unfortunately for Gerry his spell of misfortune continued as he suffered serious injuries after being involved in an accident where a truck hit him as he was crossing the road. “I’ve had multiple surgeries,” Gerry said as this incident added to the list of health concerns already stemming from time spent working in construction and on the pitch. Dealing with persistent pain in his shoulder, wrist, knee, and back, Gerry notes that he probably won’t be able to work again.

Thankfully the Ridge Meadows Ministries offers an Adopt-a-Family program where donors can support a family like Gerry’s. He was able to receive some Christmas gifts and a special turkey dinner last year. “I don’t have the money to get much,” Gerry explains, “it was very heartwarming.” His son enjoyed receiving a new soccer ball that they can use together at the local field. Without these generous gifts Gerry believes at Christmas “there would be less laughter and less smiles.”

“I don’t have the money to get much,” Gerry explains, “[receiving these gifts] was very heartwarming”

Always appreciative of the support he’s received Gerry has looked to give back through volunteering. When at Ridge Meadows “he was always extremely helpful and the first one to lend a hand,” says Bee Schroeder, Community & Family Services Coordinator.

“There’s not a feeling like it in the world, when you’re doing it for someone else and not expecting anything in return”

During Christmas Kettle season he regularly rings the bells and often brings his son with him. “There’s not a feeling like it in the world, when you’re doing it for someone else and not expecting anything in return,” says Gerry as he prepares to bus from Mission to his next kettle shift in Maple Ridge.

Thanks to the support he’s received from programs such as Adopt-a-Family, Gerry has been able to spend more time with his family and enjoy Christmas with his two sons and grandchildren. He also looks forward to more opportunities to volunteer.


Because of the generosity and support of donors like you, we are able to help people like Gerry across B.C. and continue Giving Hope Today … and every day. And we thank you.

To learn more about how you can support The Salvation Army click here.